What does toner do to brown hair? Does your hair need a toner?

 brown hair toner

  • The toner removes unwanted colors like orange, yellow, or red that may appear in brown hair.
  • It can be used on brown hair with balayage or highlights or on brown-colored hair.
  • Now, if your hair is naturally brown and you notice unwanted shades, there’s a more efficient option to remove them. It’s the toning shampoo. I’ll tell you later why toning shampoo is healthier than toner.


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 “] Generally, toner is used on brown hair with blonde highlights or blonde balayage. 


As you may know, your brown hair has to be bleached to do blonde highlights or a blonde balayage.

Bleaching strips color pigment from the hair.

 However, the color you get after bleaching is usually brassy. 


That’s when toner comes in. It tones the hair and turns that unwanted color into a brighter one.

So, if you apply a toner to your brown hair with orange highlights, for example, your highlights will be ashy blonde.

 The same is true if you dyed your hair brown. 


After a few washes, or if you don’t protect the hair from the sun or several touch-ups, unwanted shades may also appear.

In this case, you can also apply toner to your brown hair to obtain a pearly brown or simply a brown color without unwanted undertones.


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You could also apply toner on your natural brown hair if you notice that it turns orange or reddish brown.

However, I’ll tell you about a much better option to neutralize unwanted colors on natural brown hair.


You can apply toner to your brown hair with blonde highlights

applying toner to brown hair with highlights

 You may have applied highlights on your brown hair   because you wanted to gradually scale levels towards blondes. Alternatively, you probably wanted to brighten your mane. In those cases, the toner will remove the brassy shades that can appear after bleaching.

Why does brassy appear?


Because auburn or brown is in the middle of the hair-color scale. Black 1 and extra light blonde 10 are at each end.

Brown, being in the center, contains red, blue, and yellow pigments. However, there are different tones of brown. Therefore, the color pigment ratio also varies.

  •  Dark brown 3,   for example, contains high amounts of red pigments.
  •  Chestnut 4,   in turn, contains equal parts yellow, red, and blue pigments.
  •  Light brown 5,   contains high amounts of yellow pigments.


Let’s say your hair is a brown 4 and you applied highlights.

Each bleaching session could scale between three and four levels. So, after bleaching, your hair will have a brown base color with highlights in blonde 7 or light blonde 8.


However,   your highlights won’t be blonde.   Instead, they will most likely be brassy after bleaching.


 To even out your highlights, you’ll need to apply a toner.   In this case, it could be a blue toner because it’s the opposite color of orange on the color wheel.


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After applying the toner to your brown hair, your highlights will be ashy with no trace of unwanted colors.

To put your mind at ease, you can apply toner to all your hair because the rest of your brown hair will remain unchanged. Toner only works on the colors you want to neutralize.


You can apply toner on brown hair with blonde balayage

turn down tones

This is similar to the previous case. The only difference is that instead of having brown hair with highlights, you went for balayage.

Balayage is a freehand natural color-fading technique. In short, the colorist becomes an artist.


  If you applied this coloring technique to your brown hair, you may eventually notice several very unwanted tones of blonde in your hair.  


My years of coloring experience tell me that you’ll most likely see blonde 7, light blonde 8, and very light blonde 9.

So,   if you applied balayage on your brown hair, you’ll need to use a violet toner to remove those unwanted colors.  

Why? Because purple is the opposite color of yellow on the color wheel.


So,   if you apply a violet toner on your brown hair, the strands with balayage will be pearly blonde.  

Can toner only be applied on brown hair with highlights and balayage? No, but take a few moments and think.

  If you have never colored your hair, is it necessary to apply toner?  


Don’t forget that toner is applied with a 20-volume developer. As a developer is a chemical, it’ll strip your hair of moisture and nutrients.

Also, after toner is applied, your hair will never be the same. At least, the hair where you applied the toner will never be the same because toner is a permanent hair color.

So, I have good news.


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If your natural brown hair has some unwanted colors, you can remove them with a toning shampoo

purple and blue shampoo from fanola

A toning shampoo is healthier than toner because it doesn’t work with a developer.

What color do you want to neutralize in your natural brown hair?


Natural brown hair usually has copper, golden, or auburn undertones.

  • If you want to neutralize copper or orange, you should use a blue shampoo.
  • If you want to neutralize gold or yellow, you should use a violet shampoo.
  • If you want to neutralize mahogany or red, you should use a green shampoo.


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I recommend you use a toning shampoo on your brown hair once or twice a week. Leave it on for three to five minutes. After a few washes, you’ll notice how the unwanted colors have disappeared.

The toning shampoo won’t open your cuticles or dry out your hair. I think it’s the healthiest option if you’ve never colored your hair.


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If you applied highlights or balayage on your brown hair, the toner will help you get rid of the unwanted shades that appear after a few weeks.

But if your hair is naturally brown, and you notice that orange or reddish colors appear, you can use a toning shampoo to get rid of them.

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